Saturday, July 6, 2013

Don't break out party hats yet on jobs

At first glance, yesterday's U.S. jobs report looks to be really good, both for the month of June as well as the two months prior to it.
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 195,000 in June, in line with the average monthly gain of 182,000 over the prior 12 months. In June, job growth occurred in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and financial activities...

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged in June at 34.5 hours. In manufacturing, the workweek increased by 0.1 hour to 40.9 hours, and overtime was unchanged at 3.3 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 33.7 hours.

In June, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 10 cents to $24.01. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 51 cents, or 2.2 percent. In June, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 5 cents to $20.14.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for April was revised from +149,000 to +199,000, and the change for May was revised from +175,000 to +195,000. With these revisions, employment gains in April and May combined were 70,000 higher than previously reported.
So 265,000 more jobs than first known, 2.35 million private sector jobs added in the last year, and wages still going up. Even the labor force is up by a seasonally-adjusted 600,000 people, which is the only thing keeping the unemployment rate at 7.6%. Seems like a really good report that continues the consistent job growth of the last 3+ years.

So why am I not so thrilled by it? Well, take a look at the following stat on Page 26 (table A-15).

U-6 Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons,
March 2013 13.8%
April 2013 13.9%
May 2013 13.8%
June 2013 14.3%

Why's there such a bug jump in the U-6 numbers for June? The BLS report has a clue earlier in the report.
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) increased by 322,000 to 8.2 million in June. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
In fact, this "involuntary part-time worker" number is up by a seasonally-adjusted 588,000 since March, and it's also reflected in the sectors that had the largest increases in jobs for June, as these positions often have part-time and/or seasonal workers.

Job increases, June 2013
Food services/drinking establishments +51,700
Retail trade +37,100
Administrative/ Support services +35,900
Health care/ Social Assistance +23,500

Take these four areas out, and we only had an another 47,000 jobs for every other area of the economy. And health care is the only area of these four that would be conducive to permanent full-time jobs and growth (it's added over 355,000 jobs the last 12 months). The retail and food service and admin job numbers are seasonally-adjusted- the BLS counts on a certain amount of added hiring for Summer, but what happened in June is well above what is typical Summer additions to the staff. Makes you wonder if we see a large "decline" around September as these students go back to school and the other part-timers aren't needed as much for touristy-related jobs.

On the flip side, manufacturing dropped by another 6,000 jobs, and is down 24,000 on a seasonally-adjusted basis since February. Democurmudgeon has more on this, and he is even more alarmed than I am, as he sees it as a turn toward even lower wages.

So while the top-line numbers look very good from this jobs report, a lot of it seems to be due to higher-than-normal seasonal hiring, which makes me wonder if the underlying strength isn't that big. It may bump up the numbers for a couple of months, but we need more growth in sectors with permanent jobs before I start saying we're in a new phase beyond the slow and steady recovery we've had the last 3+ years.

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